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Story of Television, The

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Story of Television, The

Published 1956

PLEASE NOTE: A more complete version with the full color sequence at the end is here.

RCA's corporate history of pre-1956 developments in television.

Run time 14:50
Producer Ganz (William J.) Co.
Sponsor Radio Corporation of America (RCA)
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W


Shows efforts of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in the creation, development and introduction of the all-electronic TV system; explains how science made television a working reality. David Sarnoff tells of the early research and experiments. Shown is the first successful picture tube, the first experimental TV station, the problems of improving piucture quality and reducing the size and cost of components at the transmitting and receiving ends, and the function of mobile units. Actual scenes from TV "firsts" are included -- President Roosevelt opening the 1939 New York World's Fair, the visit of the King and Queen of England, and the 1940 Republican Convention in Philadelphia. Animated diagrams demonstrate how a TV camera converts electronic beams into a picture.



Reviewer: Guru42 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 22, 2017
Subject: RCA infomercial very interesting bit of geek history
A propaganda infomercial by RCA to brag about what they have done in the world of television. Not the most historically accurate account of television, but still a very interesting bit of geek history.

Sarnoff loved being called "general" and Zworykin, as a loyal servant of RCA refers to Sarnoff as "general" during the dialogue between the two men, pretty funny.

Even though many others worked to invent television, and working models were demonstrated before RCA, Sarnoff used the 1939 Worlds Fair to introduce commercial television to the world.

Why is this same movie listed numerous times on

These two versions are 15 minutes long. This one is 26 minutes includes color piece at end
Reviewer: Coal Miner 1948 - favorite - March 6, 2010
Subject: US did not invent Television
Almost every schoolchild around the world could tell you who invented Television, well almost because in the US they were be certain to get it wrong, It wasn't RCA, not was it Farnsworth, it was a Scotsman by the name of John Logie-Baird. In any documentary in the UK or around the world, it would be accepted the Logie-Baird invented the television, but it would be a fair unbiased documentary which would also point out that others were working on various systems and that there may be others that should have a possible credit, such as several European scientists. It would also mention the work of pioneers in the US, who although certainly have no claim to invent Television, do have a valid claim, for inventing rival systems and for improvements. Why is it that the US continues to put out blatant propaganda that it created Television whilst not even bothering to mention anyone else? I read an in depth review of American TV and it's invention in a notable US magazine that a friend in San Francisco sent to me, it goes into great detail about the invention of Television, but of course solely by the US. My friends in the US were amazed to discover that they had been blatantly lied to, if anybody doubts my views, you always have the internet...try looking!
Reviewer: donwert - favoritefavorite - March 6, 2010
Subject: Behind every great fortune is a crime...
An RCA film that purports to show how RCA invented modern television. Needless to say, it doesn't even hint that RCA stole the relevant technologies from the actual inventor, Philo T.
Farnsworth. It took years of litigation before the courts recognized Farnsworth's claims. RCA's dishonesty would be repeated when it launched a campaign of falsehoods to discredit the CBS color system, which produced color pictures far superior to the RCA system. David Sarnoff was a duplicitous, nasty piece of work. Of course, RCA doesn't exist anymore and NBC is the least-watched TV network---so maybe there's justice after all....
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavorite - November 13, 2004
Subject: (Up to 1956 that is)
Not bad doc about the many advances television had gone through to 1956. Although padded somewhat at the beginning with a history of how man wanted to see "beyond the valleys" the film gets back on course by telling the many wonders television pioneers, more specifically, RCA, has done. We get to see a very badly done "conversation" between two of them. What could have been an interesting talk just looks like two old men reading from cue cards (and that's what it is). The historical aspect of tv is shown from it's mainstream introduction at the world's fair to them bringing tv on the road, and then! to Color! (film ends at that point (Missing reel?).
The film is somewhat badly spliced but still somewhat interesting to watch.
Reviewer: Iowatvman - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 8, 2004
Subject: What Color?
I have to wonder if the previous reviewer was watching the same film I was. There's no color footage, faded or otherwise, in the version that's available for download as of 11/8/04. The film ends abruptly just as the announcer begins to describe color television. The MPEG-1 file (the one I watched) ends with leader sprocket noise at the end of the sound track, so I'm sure I downloaded all that was there.

The previous comments about the content were accurate. RCA's policy was always to claim that it exclusively was responsible for the development of both monochrome and color TV. Never mind that RCA fought patent lawsuits with Philo Farnsworth for years (and lost some), and never mind that color TV was a development led by an industry committee. According to the General (Sarnoff), it was RCA and RCA alone. That's not to say that the company's contributions to monochrome and color were insignificant--quite the contrary--but there were others involved as well.

It appears that a fair-sized chunk is missing from this print in the World War II segment. Another copy on includes more footage of RCA's wartime activities. Unfortunately, the other copy is seriously truncated at both ends, and the quality of the print and transfer isn't as good as this one.

Other comments: Much of the footage of the World's Fair of 1939 and other very early TV was the same as RCA's 1939 "Presentation" film (also on this website). The narrator sounds very much like someone who was a staff announcer for NBC television for many years. That makes sense; use someone already on staff rather than hire a freelancer. I don't know this announcer's name, other than that it definitely was *not* Don Pardo (who was working for NBC at the time, and still does).

I'm withholding one star because of the missing footage. Perhaps some day a complete print will be found.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavorite - October 6, 2002
Subject: The Story of Television
This film about the history of television was made by RCA in 1956, so it concentrates on the early stuff. The history presented here is history according to RCA, focusing on the technological advances that could be attributed to RCA and de-emphasizing everything else. A lot of tv "firsts" are shown: first president to be televised, first televised baseball game, etc. David Sarnoff talks with Vladimir Zworykin about television's early development at RCA (and sounds like he's reading from cue cards). The last third of the film suddenly breaks into color (though very poor color) and talks about the development of color television. The whole makes for an interesting combination industrial film and archive of early tv.
David obviously reading his
lines...from cue cards.
In an explanation of how color television
works, mention is made of television's
three primary colors: red, blue, and
green. But the film's coloration leads you
to the conclusion that the real three
primary colors are brick red, washed-out
sky blue, and brown.
While extolling NBC's "Spectaculars", title
cards of the various productions are
shown. The title cards suddenly change
to titles of regular series for no good
reason, causing a series of highbrow
theatrical productions to be followed by
"Ding Dong School".
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***. Also available on VHS from Video Yesteryear.
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